Since the inception of the natural hair movement and its rise to popularity in the late 2000s, women and girls have been the hub at the center of the curly and natural hair care wheel—but what does it look like for a curly hair care line to create products with young boys in mind?
While searching for products to care for their young son’s curly hair, Cora and Stefan Miller experienced first-hand how few clean products in the beauty industry are marketed specifically towards curly-headed boys.
Young King Hair Care was born from the Miller’s determination to provide unique product options as well as proper visual representation for their son and young boys like him. Created with the best plant-based ingredients, Cora and Stefan’s products are bridging the industry gap by celebrating and promoting young Black and Brown men in the male-grooming and hair care space. The line includes all the curly staples such as a leave-in conditioner, curling cream, shampoo, and even a full skin care line.
We were elated to sit and chat with Cora and Stefan about the creation of Young King Hair Care, including their standard for ingredients and some entrepreneurial tips.
Your son Kade was a huge motivating factor for launching the Young King Hair Care brand. What was your experience with caring for your son’s curly hair prior to Young King Hair Care?
As a first-time mom, I simply wanted to find and provide my son with the best products his amazing curls deserved, while also ensuring that the products we used felt representative of him. I firmly believe you should see yourself in the products that you use, which why I was so surprised to discover that there were no products specifically designed for curly-headed young men. I spent a good amount of time looking for natural hair products that weren’t female scented and designed, and those simply didn’t exist. So that’s why I began working to create products that felt made for any young men with textured hair. Each of our products were created with our young kings in mind – from the ingredients, to the scent and overall packaging design – with the goal of redefining male grooming and self-care for the next generation. We want to inspire parents and encourage Black and Brown young men to celebrate and love their crowns.
Walk us through the process of creating Young King Hair Care—what was that like?
Prior to launching, we spent over a year conducting market research, facilitating consumer focus groups, going through multiple iterations of brand design, identifying the right manufacturing company and testing products with parents of boys to ensure that our product formulation aligned with our vision. We wanted our brand and our products to be as unique and dynamic as our target audience. From the ingredients, to the scent to the packaging design, we wanted to be thoughtful on formulating, sourcing and finalizing our initial product offerings in order to uniquely meet the needs of young men with textured hair.
The biggest surprises and learnings we’ve experienced throughout this entrepreneurial journey is the realization that you’ll have many more setbacks than successes during the startup phase. It’s a long journey to get from an idea to executing it – which takes many, many, MANY months, to develop and validate your concept with others, find the right people to partner with and trust that they will help execute your vision, and diligently save to invest money into the business without getting into debt.
Through it all however, we remained prayerful and focused on our reason and goal, which was uniquely crafting a solution that not only solves a need for our son Kade, but for black and brown young men across the globe. We truly believe our business can be used as a platform to showcase more of what the world needs – shining a positive light on our boys.
Young King Hair Care was just launched in 2019 and is already a widely available and successful brand. What do you think makes it so attractive to your customers?
We are uplifting and shining a light on an underrepresented community within the market. We firmly believe that representation is critically important for young men of color, especially given today’s current climate.
We all know the problems facing the black community and particularly black boys and men –sadly, more often than not, black males are seen as a threat and are prejudged before they even open their mouths. As the founder of Young King and more importantly, as a mom to a growing black boy, I want to change narrative of how the world sees black boys. We know our young kings are royally crafted, they are our future change makers and they will help make this world a better place.
Young King wouldn’t be here today without the thousands of parents who share in this belief and in our vision of ensuring boys feel represented in all facets of their lives, including the products they utilize for themselves. We aspire to play an active role in the industry to ensure black and brown boys are seen and have a “place” on shelves.
Were there any big challenges when launching the brand?
Any time you are startup and developing a new product or brand, you know you will face a few hurdles along the way and Young King was no different. As I look back on our first year, three things stand out to me the most: product development and manufacturing, limited access to external funding, and COVID. Each of these areas presented a unique challenge that forced us to creatively come up with a solution to best meet the needs of our business and those we are serving.
From a product development formulation and manufacturing perspective, we struggled to find a partner who could truly deliver on our concepts of creating clean, natural, and plant-based products. We interviewed 5-7 manufacturers, with many unable to deliver or represent our desires for our products. Despite those hurdles, we eventually found a team that believed, embraced and executed on our vision of bringing Young King to life.
As with most entrepreneurs, after the idea comes to your mind, the next thing that follows is how can we fund the venture. We read so much about black founders and their lack of access to capital to support their ventures. Despite our 20+ years of corporate experience, we found this to be true when we launched this business. Cora and I were so passionate about the mission and vision of Young King that we invested the majority of our personal savings into the business, but there were times we doubted if this would become a reality. We stayed unwavering in our resolve that we had an active role to play in changing the narrative for black boys and used that long-term vision to keep us grounded in the most difficult of times. As an entrepreneur seeking access to capital, you will hear a lot of “no’s” or “you’re crazy” or “is this even needed?” …but we used each of those “no’s” to strength our resolve and prove people wrong.
Also, we all know the impact COVID-19 has had on world and the market – specifically for us, all of our in-person and pop-up sale events were cancelled and we had a ton of manufacturing and production challenges due to component delays.
But our sense of hustle and being laser-focused on our goals for Young King have allowed us to navigate through these challenges and pivot accordingly. For instance, instead of doing events, we focused on how we could use digital channels like Facebook and Instagram to spread the word about our brand; we worked with our manufacturing partner to source alternate bottles when there were significant delays in producing our original packaging; and we still pushed through to finalize the formulation of our new shampoo and conditioner to ensure it would launch this fall.
Essentially, through it all – product development and manufacturing, limited access to external funding, and COVID – we never lost sight of our vision and our “why.”
Young King Hair Care has a full line of products complete with a shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers and stylers—everything a curly boy would need! Are there any products in the line that are your personal favorite?
Oh goodness, I seriously can’t choose! But if I must, I have to take it back to our original (or OG) products we launched with our Royal Treatment set, which includes our Leave-In Conditioner, Essential Oils and Curling Cream. All three products were crafted with naturally derived ingredients and are plant-based, and not formulate with sulfates, parabens, mineral oil or other harmful ingredients. We source our plant-based ingredients from across the globe, including shea butter, coconut oil and almond oil. One of our star ingredients that we utilize in both our curling cream and leave-in conditioner is grapeseed oil, which is a natural oil to help nourish the scalp and helps promotes hair growth. Plus, it’s super lightweight, so it moisturizes and conditions without weighing the hair down. Grapeseed oil is not commonly utilized in kids hair products, so I was excited that our formulations included this incredible ingredient!
What are you looking forward to in the future of the Young King Hair Care brand?
Our mission has always been bigger than the hair care products we sell. We will continue to walk in our purpose of to redefining male grooming and changing the narrative of what self-care means and look like for young men of color. Through our brand and our community work, we seek to celebrate, elevate, and encourage young men to show up with full confidence, present their best selves each and every day, and more importantly, let the world know that they are not a threat. We’re excited to become a leader in this space as we continue to scale and expand the brand across multiple categories.
Do you have any tips or advice for other budding entrepreneurs who also want to create a business in an untapped market?
First, remember your “Why.” I know for me, it was critically important from the onset, to build a company and a brand that kept my community at the forefront and top of mind.
So, I believe one of the most important realizations you can make when you are conceptualizing your business or mapping out what it could be, is recognizing that your business can be used as vehicle to give back, cultivate community and contribute to the economic well-being of your community.
Being intentional to align your purpose to your “why” with each business decision you make and relationship you build.
Also, having a strong business plan and validating your concept with others is critically important. You don’t want to invest time and energy into something that potential consumers would not be interested in supporting.
Finally, leverage your networks! You’d be surprised how many people in your circle know someone, that knows someone, that knows someone. The power of networking and relationships is key in trying to build and grow your business. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and seek advice and guidance from those that have expertise or experience in the industry you are seeking to enter.